Friday (Non)Fiction: The Road to Wigan Pier

583edc16de6548054a01a39f9273a56fOn Tuesday I was completely swamped with some professional stuff. So this is my Teaser Tuesday post, three days late.

Currently I’m reading George Orwell’s excellent work, The Road to Wigan Pier. In the first half of this book, Orwell describes his first-hand observations of the living and working conditions of the poor in Northern England. In the second, he argues on the basis of those observations in favour of Socialism. (Yes, that George Orwell. We misread 1984 all the time. Its author was actually a socialist, though perhaps not in the way we use the term.)

In any case, The Road to Wigan Pier is excellent: crisp, precise diction, startlingly funny, clear description. I find this book thoroughly enjoyable and applicable, as relevant to 2016 America as to 1937 Great Britain.

Because the book exists in two parts, I’ve chosen two selections from it.

From the first section, on page 25:

Before I had been down a mine I had vaguely imagined the miner stepping out of the cage and getting to work on a ledge of coal a few yards away. I had not realised that before he even gets to his work he may have to creep through passages as long as from London Bridge to Oxford Circus. In the beginning of course a mine shaft is sunk somewhere near a seam of coal. But as that seam is worked out and fresh seams are followed up, the workings get further and further from the pit bottom. If it is a mile from the pit bottom to the coal face, that is probably an average distance; three miles is a fairly normal one; there are even said to be a few mines where it is as much as five miles.

And from the second, on page 136, comes this excerpt. This one gives a taste of the personal tone and ironical humour that occasionally breaks through the serious social and political thought that Orwell works through in this book:

I still don’t like drinking out of a cup or bottle after another person – another man, I mean: with women  I don’t mind – but at least the question of class does not enter. It was rubbing shoulders with the tramps that cured me of it. Tramps are not really very dirty as English people go, but they have the name for being dirty, and when you have shared a bed with a tramp and drunk tea out of the same snuff-tin, you feel that you have seen the worst and the worst has no terrors for you.

Read the book. You can find a fuller description here at Goodreads.





One thought on “Friday (Non)Fiction: The Road to Wigan Pier

  1. Pingback: Teaser Tuesday: The Shock Doctrine | Meditations & Miscellany

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